That island of Nonò between enchantment and prison. The narrative debut of Palermo bookseller Claudia Lanteri


By John

We are all on a strange time line and that declined in the island, in the beautiful novel «The island and time» (Einaudi, in the fascinating “Unici” series), narrative debut by Claudia Lanteri, a bookseller from Palermomaintains its ambivalence as has often happened in literary geography in which the archetype and polysemic topos of the island, place of loss and rescue, maternal womb and enchanting prison, crossroads of desires and passions, becomes an experience of soul.

And on the island of Onofrio, known as Nonò, the narrative voice of this novel of dense narrative turgidity, peppered with dialect lexemes and island inflection, the island in which Linosa is recognized, far from Lampedusa and even more from Sicily-Italy, coexist the antinomian forces of enchantment and deception, in whose circumscribed space yet open to meeting and overlooking the limitless, the chronological coordinates become confused and space-time becomes absolute (the future on the island is not expected and verbs in the future tense conjugate nothingness ).

An essential chronotope for the very structure of the narrative and for the destiny of Nonò who, as he tells the story, is both the adolescent who experiences the facts and the adult who, even thirty years later, needs to map those facts by telling them to everyone he meets. Because stories are useful for something, it's “as if putting on a pair of patterned glasses to see the world in a new way, which you hadn't foreseen or calculated”. That of Nonò on the island is a private paradise lived with the curiosity and imagination of having as a home not so much his poor house but a place where the seasons are changeable like the sea, where caves and passages, mountains and seabeds, dammusi The hiding places are fabulous, and nature, the animals in particular, flocks of turriaches and colonies of fish, fuel the air of adventure that the boy breathes while often hidden “flattened on his elbows” to observe without being found.

Son with two brothers of the fisherman Salvatore, mediocre as a father and worse as a husband, and of Angelina, a beautiful character symbol of the power of the feminine because «females, made mothers, lose sleep over it and gain foresight», becomes the ” assistant” of the naturalist Edoardo Delmasso, who arrived on the laboratory island to collect samples of animals and plants. We are on the threshold of the 1960s, there is no electricity on the island and to get water and other supplies we are waiting for the arrival of the ship when it can land, but for Nonò the island is not «the lost burnt rock in the sea” as the people who arrive there in the summer believe, but “the land that explodes in March without being plowed, and the butterflies and bees gorge themselves on wild flowers, and the iron-breakers migrate from Africa, and the warblers, and it's all green.” It is beautiful to live between the light and the sea but with your feet firmly rooted to the ground like the mothers of the island who look at the sea from afar, taken as they are by the affairs that are “the ways in which certain mothers hug you”.

But one day Nonò's adventure is tinged with mystery when a small boat arrives with a castaway and his wife's body on board. It is a skipper who talks about the fire of the boat on which the wealthy Domoculta family was travelling, father, mother and three small children, who disappeared in the accident with many shadows never clarified by the ambiguity of the castaway. Thus Nonò goes from being Dalmasso's assistant to becoming a “beginner investigator” of a detective story that runs aground in the shallows of the official investigation. Where the light is stronger, as we know, the darkness and mourning are thicker.

Years pass and Nonò, now alone, remains a prisoner of that sticky memory, but it is for that tiring truth that he chose to remain on the island to live the time of that sea that embraces him like a lover or a mother and share the fate of those who don't leave.